A1 Trading

How to Trade the COT Report

Learning how to trade the COT report can significantly enhance your trading strategy by providing insights into the positions held by hedge funds and institutional traders. The Commitment of Traders (COT) report, an essential tool for traders, is released weekly by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). This valuable report becomes available every Friday at 3:30 PM EST, offering detailed data that can help inform your trading decisions.

What is the COT Report?

The COT report is a detailed breakdown of the positions held by commercial and non-commercial traders. We focus on the non-commercial positions found in the EdgeFinder's COT data, as they offer valuable insights for traders. While commercial positions represent major global businesses that use the market as a hedge, non-commercial positions represent the activities of asset managers, hedge funds, and banks that speculate on future prices.

Where to Find the COT Report

The CFTC releases the COT data in a text format that can be confusing and overwhelming. To simplify this data, A1 Trading offers the EdgeFinder software tool, which converts the raw data into easy-to-understand visualizations. This makes it much easier for traders to interpret and use the COT data effectively.
The EdgeFinder's COT Data

Commercials vs. Non-Commercials

Commercial Traders

Commercial traders are businesses that use the futures market to hedge their exposure to price fluctuations. For example, a global company like McDonald's might use futures contracts to hedge against currency fluctuations in euros, pounds, and dollars. These positions are not primarily for speculation but for managing risk.

Commercial traders play a crucial role in stabilizing the markets by providing liquidity and reducing volatility. Their activities ensure that markets function smoothly and efficiently. By hedging their exposures, commercial traders can protect themselves from adverse price movements, ensuring the sustainability of their operations.

Non-Commercial Traders

Non-commercial traders, also known as large speculators, include asset managers, hedge funds, and banks. These entities trade futures contracts with the primary goal of speculating on price movements. The positions of these traders are what we focus on in the EdgeFinder, as they can provide signals about the market's future direction.

Non-commercial traders are driven by profit motives and employ sophisticated trading strategies to capitalize on market trends. Their activities can significantly influence market prices, making it essential for retail traders to monitor their positions. By understanding the actions of non-commercial traders, retail traders can gain valuable insights into market sentiment and potential price movements.

The EdgeFinder and COT Data

The EdgeFinder’s COT data acts as a “signals service” for major market movers and big players speculating on future price directions. By analyzing the positions of large speculators, traders can gain insights into market trends and potential future movements.

Features of the EdgeFinder

The EdgeFinder simplifies the COT data, presenting it in a user-friendly format with easy-to-understand visualizations. Here are some key features:

Visual Representations:

The EdgeFinder transforms raw COT data into charts and graphs, making it easier to identify trends and patterns.

Filtering Options:

The EdgeFinder transforms raw COT data into charts and graphs, making it easier to identify trends and patterns.

Historical Analysis:

The tool provides historical data, allowing traders to analyze past trends and make informed predictions about future movements.

Alerts and Notifications:

Users can set up alerts for significant changes in positions, ensuring they stay updated on important market developments.
By leveraging the EdgeFinder, traders can enhance their decision-making process and improve their trading strategies.

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Cons of COT Data

While COT data is a valuable tool, it has some limitations:

Long-Term Positions:

Hedge funds and large traders may hold positions for extended periods, which might not align with the shorter-term trading strategies of retail traders.

Diverse Strategies:

Some hedge funds focus on trading, while others are more investment-oriented, affecting the interpretation of their positions.

Not a Short-Term Indicator:

COT data does not necessarily indicate immediate trading opportunities. A heavily long position on gold, for example, might be suitable for long-term investments rather than short-term trades.
It's important to remember that hedge funds and big money can still make incorrect predictions, and COT data should not be the sole basis for making trading decisions.

How to Use COT Data in Your Trading

COT data can be a valuable tool for confirming your trading decisions. Here’s how you can use it:

Example: Trading Gold

Imagine you're analyzing the 4-hour chart for gold and observe a downtrend. Based on this trend, you might consider shorting gold. However, if the COT report shows that large speculators are heavily long on gold, this information could prompt you to look for signs of an upside breakout instead.

Key Points to Consider

Trend Confirmation:

Use COT data to confirm the overall trend. If large speculators are heavily long on an asset, it may indicate a bullish sentiment, even if the short-term charts show a downtrend.

Multi-Timeframe Analysis:

Consider different timeframes. A long position in the COT report might be more relevant on a weekly chart than on a 4-hour chart.

Additional Research:

Always combine COT data with other analysis tools and research. Look at technical indicators, market news, and other factors before making a trade.

Risk Management:

Use the COT data to enhance your risk management strategies. Knowing the positions of large speculators can help you anticipate potential market movements and adjust your positions accordingly.

Practical Steps for Using COT Data

1. Identify Key Markets

Determine which markets are most relevant to your trading strategy. Commonly analyzed markets include commodities (like gold and oil), currencies (such as the euro and dollar), and stock indices.

2. Analyze COT Data

Use the EdgeFinder to review the latest COT report and identify the positions of non-commercial traders. Look for significant changes in positions, as these can indicate shifts in market sentiment.

3. Integrate with Technical Analysis

Combine COT data with technical analysis to identify potential entry and exit points. For example, if the COT report shows a heavy long position on gold and technical indicators suggest a bullish breakout, this could be a strong buy signal.

4. Monitor for Changes

Keep an eye on weekly COT reports to stay updated on changes in trader positions. Adjust your trading strategy as necessary based on new information.

5. Stay Informed

Stay informed about broader market trends and news that could impact the positions of large speculators. Economic reports, geopolitical events, and central bank policies can all influence market sentiment and trader positions.

Real-World Application

To illustrate how COT data can be used in a real-world trading scenario, let's consider an example involving crude oil.

Example: Trading Crude Oil

1. Initial Analysis

You observe that crude oil prices have been trending upward on the daily chart, suggesting a potential bullish market. However, you're unsure if this trend will continue.

2. Review COT Data

Using the EdgeFinder, you review the latest COT report and notice that non-commercial traders have significantly increased their long positions in crude oil. This indicates strong bullish sentiment among large speculators.

3. Technical Confirmation

You perform technical analysis on the crude oil chart and identify a bullish pattern, such as a breakout above a key resistance level.

4. Entry Point

Based on the COT data and technical analysis, you decide to enter a long position in crude oil, anticipating further price increases.

5. Risk Management

You set a stop-loss order below the recent support level to manage your risk in case the trade goes against you.

6. Monitoring:

You continue to monitor weekly COT reports and technical indicators to adjust your position as needed. If non-commercial traders start reducing their long positions, you may consider exiting the trade to lock in profits.


The COT report is a powerful tool that provides valuable insights into the positions of hedge funds and institutional traders in the futures market. By focusing on non-commercial positions, traders can gain a better understanding of market sentiment and potential future price movements.

Using the EdgeFinder, traders can simplify and visualize the COT data, making it easier to interpret and incorporate into their trading strategies. While COT data has its limitations, it can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive trading approach when combined with technical analysis, risk management, and broader market research.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, traders can effectively use COT data to enhance their trading decisions and improve their overall performance in the futures market.

A1 Trading Company

A1 Trading is a leading financial analysis and trading education company dedicated to empowering traders of all levels. Our team combines extensive market knowledge with cutting-edge technology to provide valuable insights and tools for traders worldwide.
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There is a significant degree of risk involved in trading securities. With respect to foreign exchange trading, there is considerable risk exposure, including but not limited to, leverage, creditworthiness, limited regulatory protection and market volatility that may substantially affect the price, or liquidity of a currency or currency pair. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. The vast majority of retail client accounts lose money when trading in CFDs. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
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